What did the Education Select Committee say about Ofsted?

Janet Downs's picture
The Education Select Committee published a report about Ofsted in March 2011. Here is a summary of its recommendations:

1. Ofsted should be split into two: the Inspectorate for Education and the Inspectorate for Children’s Care.

2. Ofsted’s remit should be clearer – there is confusion as to whether it is a regulatory and inspection body, or an improvement agency.

3. The new inspectorates should be independent of the Department for Education (DfE).

4. There should be greater transparency concerning contracts with and performance of companies (Tribal Group, Serco and CfBT Education Trust) who undertake inspection on Ofsted’s behalf.

5. Ofsted’s credibility is undermined because too few inspectors have recent and relevant experience of the settings they inspect.

6. More needs to be done to ensure that inspectors are able to develop front line skills and experience. More practitioners, possibly from local authorities and school leaders, should be seconded to Ofsted.

7. Unannounced inspections should be the norm.

8. The Committee welcomed the “cessation” of inspections of outstanding schools.

9. A new “stuck” grade should be introduced for “persistently satisfactory schools”.

10. The streamlined, proposed framework should be adopted although there should be “greater clarity” on what the four categories include.

11. Teachers should be less hobbled by bureaucracy but Ofsted should still provide the self-evaluation forms and guidance for heads and governers who can then use these if they wish.

12. The committee welcomed “reassurances” that progression as well as raw attainment is included in Ofsted reports. Progression and efforts made to ensure pupils of all abilities make progress should be given equal prominence with other key measures.

The Government has acted on some recommendations but not others – Ofsted is still “too big to discharge its functions as efficiently as smaller, more focussed and specialist organisations might.” The “confusion” over Ofsted’s remit has actually increased together with concerns about Ofsted’s independence especially since Ofsted was quick to parachute into the "improving" Downhills school and declare it failing after Mr Gove had earmarked the school for academy conversion.

The Select Committee’s concerns about transparency of contracts with firms undertaking inspections do not seem to have been tackled. The quality and consistency of inspectors was one of the concerns of NAHT members reported in TES (4 May, not available on-line).

No notice inspections have become “almost no notice”. Schools will be warned of impending inspections the afternoon before Ofsted arrives – Ofsted heeded heads’ logistical concerns about no notice inspections.

The Select Committee’s report appeared before OECD* warnings about reducing inspections of schools judged outstanding – such schools might become complacent.

The category of “Persistently satisfactory” has been expanded to include all schools judged “grade 3” whether “persistently satisfactory” or not. It’s a case of “one strike and you’re out”. Grade 3 schools will be labeled “requires improvement”. Fortunately, plans to make Grade 3 schools eligible for forced academy conversion have been dropped – a welcome sign, perhaps, that the DfE is holding back on enforced conversion. Perhaps it realizes that such centralized diktats run counter to democracy.

*OECD Economic Survey of the UK 2011, not available freely on the internet. Details about how to get a copy are here.

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howard's picture
Thu, 07/06/2012 - 20:00

"Fortunately, plans to make Grade 3 schools eligible for forced academy conversion have been dropped – a welcome sign, perhaps, that the DfE is holding back on enforced conversion."
Or perhaps a sign of OFSTED asserting its independence of DfE and taking heed of the results of its consultation?

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 09/06/2012 - 08:57

howard - it's not Ofsted that decides whether schools are forced to convert to academy status, but the Government. Unfortunately, the Government uses Ofsted judgements to support its attempts as in the case of Downhills Primary School which was earmarked in December 2011 for enforced conversion despite rising results and an Ofsted (September 2011) which said the school was "improving". So the Government asked Ofsted to revisit in January 2012 and to think again (sorry, re-inspect). The second Ofsted, despite being led by the same inspector, overturned the judgement made three months before.

It's not just Downhills which is protesting. Parents in Birmingham are not happy about enforced conversion.


And the BBC reported about how the DfE was using co-ercion to persuade schools to convert:


Rebecca Hanson's picture
Thu, 07/06/2012 - 22:24

I remember how angry Graham Stuart seemed at the first consultation I saw him at after this review. I got them impression Ofsted had told him where to stick his review.

What happened to point 1 to 6?

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Fri, 08/06/2012 - 04:56

What happened to point 1 to 6?

All set out here:


Rebecca Hanson's picture
Fri, 08/06/2012 - 08:53

So re: points 1 and 2 the government agreed with the report - but then Ofsted told them to get lost?

Point 3: The independence of Ofsted. I suspect this government has little insight into how other regulators are moving to full independence. Appointing a chief in inspector who is properly trained in the law and best practices surrounding inspection (rather than someone who's not looked outside Ofsted) and is credible to the organisations they are going to be responsible of inspecting rather than choosing 'Gove's idol' would have been a good start. Putting Ofsted under the legal framework which makes it an independent inspectorate working in the benefit of the organisations it inspects (which all other inspectorates are under) instead of keeping in under the framework where it is an obvious political device which can act in the interest of politicians or itself without being accountable to anyone else would be a fundamental and essential step towards independence.

Point 4. Greater transparency seems to be happening for reasons which are nothing to do with the DfE. What that transparency is revealing is really horrifying, especially if you're someone who's worked for one of those companies you know how they behave.

Point 5. Whatever the DfE intended to do it is really hard to describe how underqualified and underexperienced many inspectors are for the jobs they are doing. You can't have people inspecting and correctly assessing very able and highly intelligent heads who are stratospheres below those heads in terms of ability and experience. But that's what you've got. It's not just a case of those people not having current relevant experience. The simply don't have the experience at all. The rapidity with which the quality of inspectors is decreasing is very shocking. While there are clearly still some very good inspectors there are far, far to many horrors about. This, in conjunction with Ofsted being unaccountable to anyone but itself and politicians, the move to defining not unsatisfactory and unsatisfactory and the obvious non-objectivity of the way in which lesson grading are being done is creating a climate of fear and those working in education knowing they have no power to prevent these poor inspectors destroying their schools and their staff.

Then there's just lots of 'oh Ofsted will do this anyway' waffle.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Fri, 08/06/2012 - 13:00

Re: 5

Wilshaw has said he'll consider getting top-flight heads in on 'Ofsted sabbaticals' - if feasible.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Fri, 08/06/2012 - 14:38

Will we have a fair spread of respected heads of all genres? If Wishaw's view that only heads who run dictatorships are top flight heads? This everyone's fear. The heads who are brilliant managers in the background are the ones who are being got rid and labelled as being failing because they are not 'Ofstedproof'. But they are actually also top-flight heads who encourage great teaching (which is sadly also not 'Ofstedproof'.)

For Sir Michael Wilshaw to be convincing on this he needs to persuade people that he properly understands the variety of types of top-flight head which exists.

We also have the question as to where all these 'top-flight' heads are going to come from. Aren't they also the people who are going to go and improve all the good schools which have been labelled as being failing and have had their heads collapse with stress?

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Sat, 09/06/2012 - 11:51

Well, as Janet and other so frequently remind us, 70% of schools are already good or better, so there's a big pool.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Sat, 09/06/2012 - 14:47

who is 'other'?

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Sat, 09/06/2012 - 14:47

& of course that was before good became satisfactory.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Sun, 10/06/2012 - 09:35

Who is 'other'?

Not sure, but she may be significant. :-)

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Sun, 10/06/2012 - 23:16

if she exists. I suspect she's a figment of your fantasies Ricky.

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